A rare photograph of a comet that will never be seen from Earth again has won a prestigious photography award.
The image shows a piece of Comet Leonard’s tail breaking off and being blown away by the solar wind.
The comet made a brief appearance on Earth after being discovered in 2021, but has now left our Solar System.
The Royal Observatory Greenwich in London organizes the Astronomical Photograph of the Year contest and called the image “astonishing”.
It also presented two 14-year-old boys in Sichuan, China with the award for Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year.
The images are on display in an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in London from Saturday.
“Comets look different from hour to hour, they are very amazing things,” explained winning photographer Gerald Rhemann, from Vienna, Austria.
The photo was taken on Christmas Day 2021 from an observatory in Namibia, home to some of the darkest skies in the world.
He had no idea that the comet’s tail would snap off, leaving a trail of glowing dust in its wake.
“I was absolutely happy to take the photo, it is the highlight of my photographic career,” he told BBC News.
Astronomer Dr. Ed Bloomer, who was one of the judges for the competition, called the image one of the best comet photographs ever.
“Perfect astrophotography is the collision of science and the arts. Not only is it technically sophisticated and casts the viewer into deep, dark space, it is also visually stunning and emotional,” said Dr. Hannah Lyons, assistant curator of art at the Royal Museums in Greenwich. BBC News.
The judges looked at more than 3,000 entries from around the world.
For their winning image, Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen, both 14, worked together to photograph the Andromeda Galaxy, one of the Milky Way’s closest and largest neighbors.
The image shows the stunning colors of a galaxy close to our own. “I think this photo shows how beautiful our closest neighbor is,” said Yang Hanwen.
The Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year category is for those under 16 years of age.
Dr Lyons said she was “impressed” by the quality of the young photographers, “producing the most remarkable images”.
See more of the winning and highly recommended images:
This image by Slovakian photographer Filip Hrebenda shows the Northern Lights reflected in a frozen Icelandic lake above Eystrahorn Mountain.
Peter Szabo was highly commended as Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year for this photograph of the Moon, which he took in Debrecen, Hungary.
The image uses high-quality processing to show the Moon’s surface in incredible detail, revealing a view that is familiar to most people but in an extraordinary way.
Péter Feltóti captured this image from Hungary. IC 1805 is in an area of large amounts of ionized gas and interstellar dust. A strong stellar wind blows surrounding material outward, creating a hollow, cave-like shape in a cloud of gas.
“It’s very difficult to capture a dark nebula with any kind of clarity,” explained Dr Ed Bloomer.
Astrophotography was important, he added, because it revealed features of the cosmos that the human eye could not see simply by looking at the night sky.
Weitang Liang took this photograph of the Helix Nebula in Río Hurtado, Chile, at the Chilescope observatory.
“It’s easy to see how the ancients used to look at the stars in the sky and imagine that the cosmos was looking back, watching over us,” Judge Imad Ahmed said.
This image by Pauline Woolley, which combines images taken with large telescopes, won the award for innovation
It shows how the sun changes over time using the idea of tree-ring dating.
Using an ordinary camera, Lun Deng captured this image of the Milky Way rising over Minya Konka Mountain, the highest peak in Sichuan, China.
All images subject to copyright.